Racing: Flight of the Cape crusader

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The Independent Online
THE underdog had his day here, if not at Wembley, as unconsidered 20-1 shot Cape Cross blazed out of the stalls and led all the way to take the pounds 125,000 Lockinge Stakes. The four-year-old, the Godolphin second string, was actually in the race to ensure a fast pace for his stablemate Kahal but did his job to such devastating effect that neither that one, nor anything else, could peg him back. And for good measure the time, on ground drying fast in the scorching sunshine, was a new record for the straight mile, clipping nearly half a second off the mark set by Emperor Jones in the same contest four years ago.

It was a first Group One win, on his first ride at the top level in England, for 25-year-old Daragh O'Donohoe, who bounced his partner smartly out of the stalls and was as surprised as anyone that he remained in front. "I looked round at the two marker because I couldn't hear the others," the Dubliner said. "I was waiting for them to come and swallow me up, but there was nothing there. I couldn't believe how far I was clear and I just put my head down and kicked on for the line.''

Kahal was travelling easily under Frankie Dettori a quarter of a mile out but began treading water a furlong later. Poteen was the only one to pose any sort of threat but O'Donohoe had kept enough in reserve to hold his spirited late charge under Walter Swinburn by a neck. Two and a half lengths adrift, Centre Stalls pipped Kahal for the minor berth, with Almushtarak fifth, Among Men sixth and favourite Air Express a disappointing seventh.

Cape Cross, a four-year-old son of Green Desert, flew into Britain only a week ago with the second wave of Godolphin horses and still looked on the burly side. His form in two races on sand at Nad El Sheba earlier this year had not hinted of yesterday's glory, though on his previous outing in Britain he had beaten Among Men at Goodwood before losing the race in the stewards' room.

The Dubai-based operation's racing manager, Simon Crisford, said: "We did prefer Kahal and because he can be headstrong. Cape Cross was there to set a good enough pace to enable him to settle. But we told Daragh that his horse would go well nonetheless, to make plenty of use of him and of course to win if he could.''

Kahal is now likely to drop back to seven furlongs, but the first three are scheduled for the re-match in the Royal Ascot opening race, the Queen Anne Stakes.

It is not the first time that Cape Cross has proved something of a bete noir for Dettori, for it was he who was on the colt at Goodwood last August and received a lengthy ban for his riding misdemeanours then.

But though upstaged by Donohoe's tactics yesterday, the Italian was nonetheless delighted for his young colleague - a leading apprentice in Ireland when with Dermot Weld and now one of Godolphin's trusted work-riders - giving him a well-deserved congratulatory slap on the back as the jockeys pulled up.

Dettori did get on the scoresheet, winning the opener on the rather impressive Ian Balding-trained two-year-old Hard Lines, a possible for the Coventry Stakes at the Royal meeting. He narrowly failed to emulate his beloved Arsenal by making it two when edged out in the six-furlong handicap by the second of a Balding pair, Double Brandy, who was the Queen Mother'sfirst Flat winner since Bali Ha'i won the Queen Alexandra Stakes in 1959.

Balding reported that Border Arrow, third in last week's Dante Stakes, was still on course for the Derby in 20 days' time. "He's done very well since then," he said. "It was a rough, tough race, but he's a tough horse." French challenger Croco Rouge, however, will miss Epsom in favour of his local Derby at at Chantilly.

Yorkshire, for whom the highest hopes were held early last year in Paul Cole's yard, lost his way as the season progressed but, having been gelded during the winter, showed his true mettle with a four-length rout of his rivals in the Aston Park Stakes, producing a smart turn of foot as he swept from last to first.

Cole said: "He used to spend quite a lot of time on his hind legs last year, but removing his manhood seems to have done the trick. He's not yet entered in anything special, but now we can be a bit bolder. He's a very interesting prospect.''